May Madness: Weekend College Baseball Preview

April 30, 2010
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May is upon us, and my questions is:  What happened to April?  The last 30 days just flew right by.  Oh well, I guess that’s what happens.  You know what they say “April showers bring May Madness”…so maybe they don’t really say that, but they should.

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Conference baseball tournaments are just a little more than a month away, and league baseball races are tightening-up.  There are some big match-ups around the country this weekend that will go a long way toward determining which teams have a shot at at-large NCAA berths a month from now and which teams are hitting the showers until next year.

Before I run down some of this weekend’s match-ups I want to take a second to give a shout to have been providing some great content for us this season:  Pete LaFleur is the co-editor at Collegebaseball360.com and he cranks out those CB360 Composite National Rankings in his lab each week and he also works tirelessly (maybe a little tired) on the daily Match-Ups and Results pages, which include pitching match-ups and other great information.  Chase Titleman provides us with great coverage of the Pac 10 at Road2rosenblatt.com, Chris Webb from Buckeyestatebaseball.com continues to give us great Big Ten coverage and Randy Rosetta from the Baton Rouge Advocate always has great insight on the SEC and LSU.  We have had recent podcasts with all of them, and we’ll have more as we go forward.

Now, on to the weekend…

(All rankings are based on the exclusive CB360 Composite National Rankings.  RPI is based on the official NCAA rank.)

#1 Arizona State (35-5, 11-4) RPI-3 at #4 UCLA (30-7, 7-5) RPI-8

Gerrit Cole heads a pitching staff that leads the nation in strikeouts.

This is the series we’ve been waiting for all season.  The two Pac 10 teams that started the season with a combined 46-0 record will play three this weekend at Jackie Robinson Stadium.  The six probable starting pitchers in the series have a combined 41-5 record.  UCLA entered the week with the second best team ERA in the nation (2.80), while ASU’s (3.21) was the fifth best.  The Sun Devils lead the Pac 10 with a .350 batting average and 84 stolen bases.

How High? The last time a top-five UCLA team played a top-five opponent was April 1997, when the #6 Bruins took two of three games from #2 Stanford.  Both of those teams advanced to the ’97 College World Series.

#13 LSU (32-10, 11-7) RPI-11 at #7 Florida (28-11, 12-6) RPI-2

LSU has won 17 of its last 20 SEC series, but the defending national champions were swept last weekend at Ole Miss.  The Tigers are in second place in the SEC Western Division, two games behind Arkansas.  The Gators are coming off possibly their biggest series win of the season after taking two of three from the Razorbacks, which extended their winning streak to 13 games prior to losing the last two games of that series.  Florida is in second place in the SEC Eastern Division, two games behind overall SEC leader South Carolina.

Gator Bait: Florida has won three of the last four series between the two teams, including the last two series in Gainesville.  READ MORE about this week’s match-up.

#15 Cal State Fullerton (25-13, 10-2) RPI-20 at Pacific (25-14, 7-5) RPI-93

Pacific has never been to an NCAA Regional, which makes this weekend’s series in Stockton vs. Fullerton possibly the

Pacific has never won a series vs. Fullerton on its home field.

biggest series in the history of the program.  Pacific sits in third place in the Big West, three games behind perennial bully Fullerton.  If they have any chance to make a Regional this year, they have to win this series.  Since a sluggish start to the season, Dave Serrano’s Titans have won seven straight and 13 of their last 15 games heading into this key conference series vs. Ed Sprague’s Tigers.  The Tigers made a statement two weeks ago when they won two of three games at UC Irvine.  Pacific took two of three from the Titans in Fullerton last year, but the Tigers have never won a home series vs. the Titans.  Fullerton is 72-11 all-time vs. Pacific.

Just The Stats: The Titans and Tigers rank first and second, respectively, in the Big West in batting average (.336/.333) and fielding percentage (.976/.973).  Fullerton has the second beast ERA (3.89) in the league, while Pacific (5.00) ranks fourth.

#18 UConn (34-8, 14-2) RPI-23 at #34 Pittsburgh RPI-39

This season’s Big East Conference race wasn’t supposed to be a race.  It was supposed to be Louisville and everyone else.  Someone forgot to tell UConn and Pittsburgh.  The Huskies and Panthers site in first and second place, respectively,  in the conference standings heading into the weekend.  UConn’s only Big East series loss was at Louisville, and started a program best 22-game winning streak

Mike Nemeth carries a 24-game hitting streak into this weekend's showdown.

(snapped earlier this week by Central Connecticut State) by winning the finale of that set (they lost the first two games 1-0 & 4-2).  Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was a 9th inning rally away from sweeping Louisville a week after losing two of three to Rutgers.  Pitt’s Corey Baker (9-1, 4.40 ERA) shares the NCAA wins lead.  He is expected to match-up with Elliot Glynn (4-2, 2.16 ERA) in the series-opener.  Glynn’s ERA ranks 18th nationally.

Among The Best: Pitt’s .368 team batting average is second in the nation to Georgia State’s .375 average, while UConn’s 3.67 ERA ranks 10th nationally.  The Huskies also have an amazing five players who have stolen at least 20 bases.  They entered the week ranked fourth in both overall stolen bases (117 now 123) and stolen bases per game (2.93).

Ohio State (23-13, 7-5) RPI-91 at Michigan (25-14, 7-5) RPI-65

This would obviously be a much more attractive national match-up if it were football and not baseball, but this is a big series for both teams.  They enter the weekend in a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten Conference standings.  OSU ace Alex Wimmers (9-0, 1.61 ERA) is tied for the NCAA lead with his nine wins, and his ERA also ranks sixth in the nation.  Wimmers started last year’s series vs. Michigan by pitching the first 9-inning no-hitter in Ohio State history, helping the Buckeyes take two of three games from their bitter rivals.  Michigan had won 18  of the previous 24 meetings between the two teams.

X-Factor: Michigan Preseason All-American Ryan LaMarre has played in only 18 games this season after injuring his hand during opening weekend at Texas Tech.  LaMarre is now back in the line-up, and has batted .500 (34-for-68) with two home runs, 24 runs, 17 RBIs, and a 1.286 OPS.

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